Monday, May 10, 2010

Clarence and the Bullpen

Clarence makes the move we all saw coming
One truism of the Blue Jays fandom goes like this: Cito doesn't relate to the pitchers. Cito doesn't deploy his bullpen well, he falls in love with guys and their Roles and waits too long to change them. With a bunch of interesting takes on evaluating bullpen usage floating around last week, I thought I'd try my hand.

Before we go any further: a refresher on leverage index. Leverage index measures the degree which any given event impacts the final game outcome. Bases loaded in a tie game = high leverage. Two out, nobody on in a blow out = low leverage. Fangraphs tracks more than just LI, they track the average LI of all plays for a given player (pLI), the average LI for pinch hit appearances (phLI), as well as the average LI when a pitcher is introduced into the game (gmLI). This one will work for us in this instance. xFIP normalizes home runs in using a myriad of components to generate an ERAish number. In this situation it might serve as a good "who's throwing well" barometer, the kind of thing Cito might have internally.

I'm opting for gmLI rather than player LI because of Jason Frasor. Basically, Jason Frasor took a few high leverage situations and pitched himself into even higher leverage situations by walking and/or allowing the lead-off man to reach nearly all the time. And that isn't The Manager's fault, not in a way I can prove. (Yet.) Another time I'll look at each player's deployment (like the Fangraphs link above) but we'll use this as a long view for now.

What you see below is a graph of gmLI against xFIP. In a perfect world, the better pitchers (lower xFIP) would have the highest gmLI - they're used in the most important times. This isn't always the case, let's see how Cito does.

Anything interesting here? Shawn Camp continues to pitch nearly as well as anyone on the team, yet his usage suggests he isn't considered as important as Frasor or Downs. Accardo and Casey Janssen threw that ball equally poorly in nearly the same type of situations. Josh Roenicke, Rommie Lewis, and Merkin Valdez don't really have the innings to make their xFIP worth much, but they're straight up mop up dudes. Roenicke got into the game a little later on Saturday and promptly ruined the sheets. Consider that your shot Josh.

The Jays and Cito are in a unique situation because this bullpen doesn't really have a LOOGY. Downs is Cito's second favorite with good reason, The Manager asks him to both get tough lefties and pitch the 8th inning against whomever. Overall, the Jays graph looks pretty much as it should, or as you'd expect. Better the pitcher, the higher the leverage.

For fun and reference, let's look at two other examples (and we'll include a trendline for ease of use.) The backwards-ass White Sox — who use the unhittable Matt Thornton in odd situations — and the Rays: the most match-up wacky team around, thanks to Overmanagin' Joe Maddon.

Poor Ozzie. Well not, poor Ozzie. Lucky Ozzie in that he's blessed with a great pen full of fire-tossing animals. Poor White Sox fans have to watch him continue to lean on Bobby Jenks and ineffective lefties-only guy Randy Williams while Matt Thornton sits around eating planets, waiting for his chance to save a damn game.

OJM uses his bullpen well, using his two best pitchers when it matters most. The Rays long man — Andy Sonnanstine — is a Litschian 5th starter time reduced to relieving because the Rays are just too fucking good.

No real shocks here. The Jays bullpen had a tough two weeks or so but are now keeping them team in enough games for their magical bats made of hanger-attracting magnets & sprinkled in stripper smell to win them game after game they have no business being in. One thing the bullpen clearly lacks: an exceptionally hard-throwing enigma with a boatload of tattoos, bad glasses and penchant for ground balls. Other than that, it's a wonderful time to be a Jays fan.

Thanks to Royals Review, Beyond the Box Score and Fangraphs for the ideas and Fangraphs for the LI data. Getty Images took the picture that Daylife stole. I only borrowed it.


  1. Everything seems to come up Camp. Will he ever get a shot at a more important job?

  2. Bobby, Bobby, Bobby . . . we used to love him so. You wouldn't believe it now, but the roar on the South Side when the bullpen gate opened and he came trotting out was almost deafening. Now we just sit quietly, trying in vain to remember a time when the ninth inning wasn't set aside for the opposing team to get in some extra batting practice.

    Trade idea: Jenks for Fred Lewis. We'll even throw in Juan Pierre. Actually, on second thought, you don't even have to send Fred Lewis.

  3. Sexy graphs. Would've been nice to add an IP dimension by making the player's dot proportional.

  4. I kinda think that pitching the 6th and 7th, in a close game where your starter's battling, is as important as pitching the 8th or 9th. with camp we get quality and quantity, if not gmLI.


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